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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

For Trade:
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Reviews: 889 | Ratings: 4,927
Photo of starrdogg
3.8/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer pours black with a fluffy brown head. Smell is quite nice, a mostly chocolate and cocoa with hints of roast. Flavor doesn't come together as well as I'd hoped after the nice nose. It's got a lot of flavor with a lot more roast than I had expected. It starts out smooth and chocolatey, but halfway through it punches you with a bitter roastiness that overwhelms the flavor. Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied with nice carbonation. This is a nice stout, but the balance could be better, and the overwhelming roastiness in the finish is a bit much. It leaves a not-so-great flavor lingering on the palate as well.

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Photo of scotorum
3.94/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 on the label, if I'm reading the code correctly it was bottled November 4th 2012.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Pitch black, finger thick tan head receded quickly to even surface foam and some clingy lacing.

s: Overripe fruit, alcohol.

t: Heavy dark malt with quite a bit of hop bite, smoky finish. Significant alcohol throat burn.

m: Medium to heavy. Quite smooth with plenty enough carbonation tingle on the tongue.

o: A flavorful imperial stout with a lot of not entirely pleasant punch. Perhaps the year of aging did not serve it as well as could be hoped. Tough to do more than sip, although few imperial stouts aren't.

UPDATE 2/4/14: Had another from the same fourpack and it was very smooth with more dark chocolate and less smoky taste, Some chocolate also in the aroma. The more I do these comparisons bottle to bottle of the same aged beer, the more I am convinced that it is difficult to predict how some will react to aging, and in fact they may react differently from one bottle to another. Doesn't seem to make much sense, and perhaps it's my own senses that are varying, but I find quite a difference sometimes among bottles in the same pack. (Lagunitas Brown Shugga and Brooklyn's now discontinued Monster come most immediately to mind). In any case I'm raising my ratings based on this second bottle. a: from 4-4.25; s from 3.5-4; mouthfeel from 4-4.25. And overall from 3.75-4.

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a 8 oz snifter.

A- pours jet black with a 1 finger beige head. Some blotches of lacing remain.

S- dark chocolate, coffee, roast and an herbal tone (not mint).

T- bitter coffee, dark chocolate, again herbal something, and bitter pine.

M- medium body and carbonation. Slick, chalky and slightly dry.

O- this is a hoppy RIS for sure. Almost reminds me more of a imperial black ale, but where do you draw the line? Still a very good and enjoyable beer.

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Photo of ocelot2500
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a jet black color with a tight, light brown head that leaves little bits of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted notes with some dark fruits.

Tastes of the full roasted notes with a touch of bitterness on the backend. Leads off with coffee and semi-sweet chocolate. A bit of roasted bitterness comes through in the middle. Licorice also comes through near the end and is complemented by some dark fruit notes. Finishes with a slight molasses note.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a very good stout that is definitely worth checking out.

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Photo of zac16125
3.57/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a tulip
vintage 2013

A: Pours an opaque jet black with 1.5 fingers width of light mocha colored head. Decent retention, and leaves a good amount of lacing.

S: Tons of roasted malt, stale black coffee, bakers chocolate, an almost bourbon-ish booziness, some herbaceous notes.

T: Heavy on the roasted malt flavors, which are accompanied by floral hop notes and a hoppy bitterness. Wasnt expecting that. I also get anise, stale coffee, and an almost sour dark fruit character.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation non the heavier side for the style, ABV very well masked. Drinkability is average.

O: I dont love this one, kind of a weird flavor profile. I expect it to get much better with age and will revisit this in a few months.

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Photo of BlurryVisi0n
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Medium bodied that looks thin but still thick in a sense , tan head which rose to maybe a notch or two below a finger's length.

Smell: Wow, a beautiful mocha scent. You feel a chocolate aroma hitting you immediately. Strong but still subtle.

Taste: A nice complexity of cocoa and coffee, very deep and smooth.

Mouth: Stick as it gets and honestly putting the glass down is the worst part about this brew.

Overall: Awesome beer, would recommend to anyone who appreciates what quality truly is. Snifter glass preferred, salud!

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Photo of jjanega08
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Edition
Bottle Stamped
2279207 : 47

A= Pours a deep black color with a nice half finger of dep brown head on it that holds great retention and lacing on the side of the glass.

S= Smells of liqorice and dark roasted malt. Tons of liqorice. A little hoppy aroma comes through as well.

T= The taste is a nice mix of imperial stout styles. It starts as a nice liqorice taste before being swallowed by a nice bitterness. Dark chocolate and a bit of a hop bittereness. Nice roast and coffee character.

M= Nice mouthfeel

O= This is a solid imperial stout. Not the most amazing thing in the world but worth trying and

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Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A - A thick, dark, opaque black beer which generates a dark tan head with an aggressive pour.

S - There is, not surprisingly, a strong alcohol note, with a big malty blast. Coffee and chocolate notes are secondary. The booze overwhelms here.

T - This is a big beer, delivering on the smell. Beneath a complex combination of malts, caramel, coffee and chocolate is a build of booziness that comes in big for the finish. Surprisingly, the brew is not particularly bitter, nor overwhelmingly sweet, even though every flavor here seems to be turned up to 11.

M - Heavy enough to coat, but with carbonation sufficient to keep it from getting cloying.

O - A drinkable brew that does not hide its 10%, but still manages to be quite drinkable. Suggests many of the qualities of a barrel aged imperial stout, which is a real trick since it was not. The alcohol does cloud somewhat the complexity below, so I cannot say it is the best imperial stout I've had, but it is a good one. A very good one.

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Photo of Andrewharemza
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle, Black color with beige head. Aroma is roasted malty, chocolate and coffee, caramel, light dark fruits. Sweet and bitter taste like aroma. Medium oily body with soft carbonation.

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Photo of neenerzig
4.34/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into one of my snifters, this beer pours a an extremely dark brown, almost black color that lets in no light whatsoever. has a dark tan head that is about 1/4 inch thick when first poured that, despite the fact that I gave this beer a very rough pour, settled very quickly to a medium sized ring lining the inside of the glass along with swirls of foam on the surface of the beer. Okay lacing, but not that good. Aromas of caramel malt, hints of chocolate and vanilla, coffee, some hints of dark fruit that are all rounded out with a bourbon smell. pretty sure this edition of this beer was not aged in bourbon barrels, but it sure smells like it. Weird. The flavors match the aromas almost verbatim, caramel malt, chocolate and vanilla sweetness upfront, followed by some roasted coffee bitterness notes, hints of plum and raisin, rounded out with a touch of bourbon. Oh yeah a hint of alcohol too. The flavors mesh very well together as the beer sits and warms up a bit too. Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. This one really coats the palate. Easy to drink in the way an excellently crafted beer should be.


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Photo of colts9016
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

This beer is almost a year old. A one finger head that is a creamy tan with good retention. The color of the beer is black as night. Some carbonation bubbles are visible on the side of the glass.

A nice coffee, roasted malt, biscuit, toffee, caramel, earthy, floral, and some dark chocolate.

A nice robust dark coffee note, with roasted malt, biscuit, caramel, earth, floral, milk chocolate.

A rich creamy mouthfeel, with some carbonation.

Overall this a very good beer I like my RIS with bit more punch. Yes it had really good flavors I just would have like them to be more pronounced.

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Photo of dfillius
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint. Enjoyed with polenta and bean salad
A: 1/3 finger of dark brown head with good retention. Nearly opaque dark brown/black liquid. A tad more head please - it faded to nothing.
S: Milk chocolate, toasted fennel seed, black pepper. Only a very slight amount of booze when warmer, thankfully. Not harsh.
T: Some breathy esters open, coffee and chocolate dominate. Very dark chocolate. Quite hoppy middle. Bright citrus and pine. Hops stand up well to the malt. I'd prefer the estery breath to not be there.
M: Smooth open, bitter hoppy middle, roasty bitter dry finish. Robust and not hot. Some chest warmth, but not on the palate.
O: Enjoyable, solid RIS. I wouldn't expect less from Sierra Nevada. I would buy again. 1 is enough for a night. I'm interested to try it aged to see if the slight booze calms down.

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Photo of eric5bellies
3.21/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Drank from my Duvel tulip

A - Pours a deep dark ebony colour witha tow fingered coffee caloured head that reduces quickly to a lacing film.

S - Booze, coffee malts with vanilla and small chocolate.

T - Up front some nice molassis malt, followed by combined coffee and chocolate. The finish is rough and boozy and a long sicky finish.

M - Full and low carbonation. Not silky

O - An ok RIS but there are far better examples. Not sure why its "exceptional" Would rather the Sam Smiths or Courage over this one

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Photo of JayS2629
4.55/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured a deep black with a nice two finger, creamy head. The aroma had a perfect balance of dark chocolate and coffee notes with hints of dark fruit and licorice. The flavor followed with a balanced earthy hops against a background of mocha and notes of vanilla and dates. The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. Rich, deep, and balanced. Nothing super complex, but perfect balance. Excellent standard example of the style.

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Photo of Act25
4.53/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Massive. Up there with all the best. Right now my favorite, and you could not know which 2x stout is best until you taste test.

Appearance: Pours an energetic black, with a tan head they mounds and then lasts and leaves rills and contours as it falls, leaving also behind spidery rings of lace. Best looking.

Smell: Dark pit fruit soaked in coffee and liquore, skewered on top of charcoal fire.

Taste: Follows the smell, so that the roast and plum/cherry flavors emerge after a chocolate coating. Much complexity and ancient church like flavors, incense, old wool, old wood, wet wool. Lovely bitterness paints the tongue keeping it an unsugared coffee like experience, along with some licorice and alcohol - but like an ancient after dinner drink. Chartreuse like.

Mouthfeel: Warm, full, bitter, great bitter roasty finish, leaves you in a kissy place. Warming.

Overall: My current favorite 2x stout. A must try. Accessible. Sierra scores.

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Photo of AdamBear
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-comes out thick and black with a nice tan head

S-faint scent of dark roasted grains and cocoa beans. I wish it were a bit stronger.

T-comes in with a wonderful taste of crisp dark roasted grains. It really is so smooth and hits the spot. There's a slight bit of bitterness before the long matching after-taste. It's a great beer. Good hints of mocha.

M-medium dry carbonation with a semi dry finish

O-the flavors aren't unique. They're not strong, but they are flawless. It's really just an easy drinking strong stout that remains true to it routes. The ingredients taste very real and genuine.i love this. It's one I could get by the case.

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Photo of jasonpeckins32
4.76/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look: Black as the darkest night. Thick, foamy, brown colored head sits atop of the beer. Very nice.

Smell: Rich, roasted, dark malts. Sweet. Some chocolate. Tobacco. Black licorice.

Taste: One of the better tasting russian imperial stouts I've had in recent memory (and most are usually quite tasty). A big roasted backbone is flanked with flavors of caramel, brown sugar, coffee, chocolate, cola, and black licorice.

For a stout this heavy bodied, it sure is as smooth as can be. It's an impressive beer. This will likely become my go-to stout, providing I'm able to get more of it while it's in season.

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Photo of beer2day
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark, inky black pour with no light coming through at all. 1 finger of darker mocha head, with light retention. Thick lace sheets all around the glass.

Lots of roast malt, sweet milk, bits of toffee and caramel, mocha, vanilla, medium roast coffee, and a touch of citrus hops. Complex and well done.

A bit more coffee forward as it hits the tongue, but not aggressive. Chocolate malt takes over, but again doesn't over assert. Citrus fights through the coffee and chocolate bitters in the finish to make its presence known. Some sweetness here, but chocolate, coffee, and citrus dominate that.

Feel is a bit thin. Wish it had more malt backbone.

Next to Celebration, my favorite SN offering.

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Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. 2013 batch.

Poured a thick oily black. No light comes through the body. Head was about a finger, tan colored. The head dissipated quckly to a full covering, before completely disappearing about halfway through the drink. No lacing to speak of.

Wasn't getting too much from the nose, pretty subtle, some alcohol, coffee, a little toasted malt.

Taste was also very subtle, with the above flavors coming through, but no strength to any of them. None of them lingered on the tongue very long.

Mouth was around medium, a little dry at the end.

I've only had this beer once before, last fall. Remember enjoying it a lot more then than now. This seemed a bit uninspired. Nothing offensive about it, just a bit bland really. A bit disappointing. Does go down easy for a 10.2abv.

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Photo of Hoptometrist
3.43/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from the bottle into a globed glass

A- Poured a vicious vlack with a small dark mocha colored head that dissipated quickly. Some minimal splashy lace was left.

S- Big licorice, toasted coconut, and big whiskey notes. Very strong aroma with lots of booze on it

T- Follows the aroma very closely. Huge licorice notes, big whiskey notes, some toasted coconut, notes and some roastiness. Kind of an odd sour twang on the finish. Incredibly bitter stout, by far the most bitter stout I have ever had.

M Pretty thick mouthfeel, very creamy and smooth, almost velvety, big warming from the alcohol, and some alcohol burn

O- Great mouthfeel, but not one of my favorite imperial stouts. Pretty boozy and the sour finish is odd.

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Photo of Nugganooch
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle w/ a nonic style sampler glass

A: SN Narwhal pours black with a thin coffee brown edge. Semi-thick and oily but not sludgy at all. A few fingers of mocha tan head succumb to the large air pockets rather quickly leaving behind just a collar that dots the glass with cling.

S: Smells of dark malted grains with a lightly roasted coffee redolence. I am getting waves of earthy pine and bakers chocolate. There is a hint of smoky char rounding out the nose. Aromas come together not unlike chocolate cake in the glass which is really quite nice.

T: Super dark roast malt flavors rich with a dark chocolate sweetness. Spent coffee accompanies an ample piney bitterness that peaks towards mid palate. I am getting lots of earthy charcoal throughout and some toasted herbs at the finish. Light alcohol warmth. Smooth, tasty, and delicious. A really well rounded Impy from the Chico boys.

M: Moderate to heavier in body with a nice even carbonation. Provides a smooth creamy texture with a slight crisp hoppy bite on it. Finish is sleek and wet.

D: Some crazy dark roast character here with impeccable balance as to be expected from Sierra. Generously hopped at that. Narwhal wont size up to most whales,bro but this an instant classic if there ever was one. Smooth and very approachable for the style.

As if I needed another reason to love this brewery SN delivers anyway.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch black, with little head or lace. No other way to describe it!

S - Chocolate, hops, cocoa, sweet, dark grains

T - Wow..an amazing DStout. Sweet, but not too much, just right. Hidden ABV

M - Full bodied, well balanced.

O - One of the better stouts I have had. Well done Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of LambicPentameter
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Reviewing from notes as I continue to catch up on past experiences. I drank this one on 2/22/14. Enjoyed out of a stubby 12 oz brown bottle with the vintage--2013--marked clearly on the neck label. Poured into a large snifter.

Appearance - Pours and inky black hole of color on the body, with no light able to penetrate whatsoever. A head of maybe a finger--probably a little less--of dark ecru colored foam that recedes quickly, leaving a generous film across the surface with slightly more thickness around the edges of the glass. Sparse, almost nonexistent lacing dots the glass intermittently as I drink it down.

Smell - Bittersweet baker's chocolate and roasted char from the malt profile are at the forefront, with a rich sweetness. There is also a slightly different element, with notes of anise, licorice and even black plum providing some complementary characteristics to the chocolate and roast elements.

Taste - The balance of the profiles in the smell have been reversed on the taste, with the fruit--plum, black currant, and prunes--and licorice elements being more overt and lingering on the palate long after I've swallowed. Some heat from the alcohol is faintly present, and the semisweet chocolate and roasted malt is there as well, but seems to provide more of a foundation than come through as the primary flavors.

Mouthfeel - Very full bodied and moderate-to-low carbonation, with a finish that lingers on the palate long after the beer is gone.

Overall, this is a very good imperial stout, and while I'm usually remiss to compare specific beers directly, I can't help myself. The body, look and feel remind me so much of my favorite RIS, Founders' version, that I think it's fair to note that they are cousins from the same family of oppressive (in a good way?) full-bodied stouts, but take different paths when it comes to aroma and taste. Where Founders is a bit drier, with a focus on cocoa, roast and coffee notes, this one leans more towards fruit and anise. My personal preference is towards the former, but this is surely top of the list when it comes to stouts that incorporate those dark fruits.

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Photo of Gatch
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep black with a dark brown head that's thick and creamy leaving decent lace and retention.

S: Great, sweet, roasted malt aromas with hints of molasses, dark fruit, currants, and some booze.

T: Big roasted malt paired with bittersweet chocolate and super dark coffee. A bit of earth, dark fruit, molasses, brown sugar, and warming, sweet booze.

M: Crazy smooth, massive flavor, and the right body and feel. Stellar at room temperature.

O: Everything is spot-on. A very well-crafted RIS. A fun and tasty sipper.

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Photo of artoolemomo
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Pours up a reasonable amount of head which looks as if it will have excellent retention. The head is a dark beige/mocha color while the body is an opaque, dark chocolate black. A bit of sheeting forms above the surface of the beer.

Nose- A bit subdued and the only thing that has real presence is the slight bubblegum that I smelled while pouring. There is some caramel, some roasted notes, and hint of cocoa but I'm a little concerned about the dominant bubblegum. The bottle shows the same thing. This, however, begins to dissolve and is taken over by cocoa. Swirling shows the bubblegum as banana.

Taste- Definite cocoa on the front with a hint of raisins lying around the edges as this moves into more and more cocoa with noticeable heat appearing on my tongue and in my cheeks. Dark chocolate and coffee notes rise with a some burnt caramel and toast bringing up the rear of the finish. Slight cardboard but it's hardly noticeable. Some hint of cherry as well with notes of oak and vanilla. A little bit messy and a little bit boozy. Very complex malt bill that echoes oatmeal as well. Probably would benefit from a little bit of age as it is a little too sweet and a little hot. Some nuttiness. I like almost every aspect of the flavor profile but the integration seems to be lacking. A little bit of banana as the finish and linger fade? Still, a pretty solid beer. Reminds me a little of Founder's Imperial Stout.

Mouthfeel- Between medium and heavy bodied with a good amount of carbonation that gives it a chewy, chalky, gritty feel. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Drinkability- After the heat subsides a bit, this becomes a pretty easy drinking beer. Great price for a four pack of such a boozy and heavy style. Less than 10 bucks for a 4 pack is a bargain. It's not in the same league as the best imperials I've had but at the price, it's hard to say no to.

Overall- Very good, solid beer. Definitely should give it a try. It looks as if will be my highest rating for a Sierra Nevada beer, knocking off SNPA. I will definitely be buying this again. And also aging a bottle.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,927 ratings.
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